Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Inaugural Poem

There has been mixed reaction to Elizabeth Alexander's inaugural poem. To me it seemed to echo Obama's speech - straightforward, no soaring rhetoric, poetic images, rhythms or rhyme. It delibrately focused on the mundane, the daily lives of people:
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

She acknowledged the struggle which had gone into making this day happen:
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here . . .
built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

In the end, she sang the hopeful new start the inauguration represented:

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp – praise song for walking forward in that light.

At least two articles in UK newspapers have been critical of the poem. The Times literary editor criticises the poem here. Carol Rumens of the Guardian is also critical here.

Full text of the poem here.

Watch the poet reading the poem here on YouTube.

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